The latest in a series about influences from Kenton’s earlier days:

Many–probably most–writers listen to music as they work, but for me, it’s more than background noise. Some musicians, some songs inspire me when I’m writing, and that’s especially true for my latest project, This Wasted Land, a young adult dark fantasy novel that will be published in early 2018.

My favorite band is Led Zeppelinthe premier group of the 1970’s. With guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham, Zeppelin was a perfect example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts, so much so that when Bonham died in 1980, the group disbanded rather than attempt to replace him.

Even if you’re not a fan of classic hard rock, you have surely heard–perhaps more times than you’ve cared to–their magnum opus “Stairway to Heaven,” which Rolling Stone magazine listed as #31 on its list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” (not bad for a band that RS hated during Zep’s heyday).

But while people may automatically think of the over-played “Stairway” when they hear the name of the band, it doesn’t epitomize what Zeppelin was. Led Zep’s music evolved from their early years of blues-rock (the albums LZ I and II), to quasi-folk music (LZ IIIand the untitled fourth album); to what I call their “epic” sound of the albums Houses of the HolyPhysical Graffitithe challenging but underappreciated Presence, and In Through The Out Door.

It’s those “epic” albums that I most favor. To be sure, not every song has inspired me–“The Crunge” and “Hot Dog” are just goofy fun–but many of the others have. There’s a grandeur to them, a vastness of scale, a dizzying intricacy, and a permeating “light and shade,” as Jimmy Page referred to it.

There’s also a tremendous intensity of emotions–love, joy, hope, pain, anger, remorse–that the music and vocals convey and evoke, that reach deeply into me even as I listen to these songs for what seems to be the thousandth time. I flip past “Whole Lotta Love” when its comes on my car radio; I am riveted by “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

I hope to harness and bring that emotional firepower to This Wasted Land. Almost 30 years ago, when I first conceived of the story, Zeppelin’s music was the soundtrack in my head:

All I see turns to brown

As the sun burns the ground

And my eyes fill with sand

As I scan this wasted land

“Kashmir” provides the title for my next novel, but it’s not the first time I’ve gone to that well.  “Traveller of both time and space” is part of another line from the song, and it’s the title of a piece of fan fiction I wrote for my Warhammer 40K gaming website, the Jungle.

Listening to “Kashmir,” I imagine Alyx, my feisty teenage heroine of TWL, crossing endless gray wastes, evading or battling monsters, as she pursues the shapeshifting witch Freydis, who has abducted her boyfriend, Sam, and brought him to the nightmare realm of Lonelylands, ruled by Oth, Freydis’ merciless master.

And it’s another Zeppelin song that makes me think of Freydis in all her cruelty, and pain, and want:

In the evening

When the day is done

I’m looking for my woman

Oh, but the girl won’t come

So don’t let her

Play you for no fool

She don’t show no pity, baby

She don’t make no rules

“In the Evening,” with its unearthly intro, phantasmal guitar solo, and Plant’s wrenching wails, is my favorite Zeppelin song. It’s especially relevant to This Wasted Land (I can say no more lest I give too much away), but I like it so much that a chapter in each of my other novels–Dragontamer’s Daughters, and Lost Dogs,–is named after it.

Oh, I need your love

Oh, I need your love

Ooh, yeah, I need your love

I’ve got to have

I’ve got to have

After the band broke up, Robert Plant embarked on a distinguished solo career that continues to this day (his latest album, Carry Fire, will debut on October 13, 2017). I became a huge fan, and like with Zeppelin, his solo work inspired me as well. More on that–and on TWL–some other time.


Lest I am misconstrued, I do think highly of Zep’s earlier work, particularly:

…and, of course, “Immigrant Song,” most recently–and appropriately–used for the teaser trailer to the upcoming film Thor: Ragnarok.  As a huge fan of Zep and Thor, you can bet your last dollar that I’ll be there on opening night.

Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress, This Wasted Land, a dark fantasy novel, will be published in 2018.

Kenton is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. He also wrote Dragontamer’s Daughters, (like Little House on the Prairie…with dragons) based on Navajo culture and belief. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

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On Friday, September 22nd, my wife and I, along with my best bud and his daughter, saw Dave Chapelle live at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. and we couldn’t have had a better time. I guess you might say we could have better seats, but not a better time.

First of all, D.C. is a capital pain of a city to drive around in. Even those of us that have done it on occasion usually have no idea where we might be at any given moment in time or place.  But thanks to modern technology,  we zipped in and parked in almost the exact amount of time Google Maps predicted.

Maps came through again. I’d marked a number of restaurants within walking distance and we had about an hour and a half before the show.  We asked a passerby for recommendations, and after mentioning that he worked at the Warner, he gave us several nearby suggestions. We ended up at  The Oceanaire Seafood Room at 1201 F Street NW and it wasn’t anything short of top-notch.

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Service was impeccable. Our waiter Tom was the training film definition of smooth and efficient service. He was friendly and knowledgeable and carried himself with endearing professional swagger.  Our food came out so quick it was somewhat amazing, and everything was delicious. We tried the crabcakes (and being from Maryland’s Eastern Shore on the Chesapeake Bay we know crabcakes), clam chowder, the tomato & mozarella and iceberg salads, and the family-style sides of truffle whipped potatoes,  cream corn and grilled asparagus, and there wasn’t a disappointing dish on the table.

In an hour and half we were wined and dined and impressed in a 4-star fashion. The Oceanaire let’s you know up front it’s high-end dining, which means it’s pricey, but as a treat on a special night out, our experience could not have been more perfect.

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ThisIsTheArmy_Earle                        National Archives

The Warner Theatre, originally the Earle, opened in 1924, at the height of America’s grand theater era, and began its career in vaudeville and silent movies.  There was “a rooftop garden that attracted thousands of visitors every night, and the basement restaurant/ballroom became famous in the 1930s as the Neptune Room, where such A-list acts as Jerry Lewis and Red Skelton performed. The theatre switched to a movies-only policy in 1945. In 1947, Harry Warner, one of the Hollywood’s Warner Brothers, visited. Warner said that since he now owned the place, his name should be on the marquee. “Thus the Earle Theatre became the Warner Theatre.”

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The entertainment industry is a fickle and fragile thing, and like all showbiz survivors, the Warner rode the cultural waves with all the grace that it could muster.  Highs included a surprise small venue Rolling Stones concert in 1978, and rock bottom was probably the theatre’s short run as a porn palace.


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After a three-year remodel, the  Warner reopened in 1992 with a gala featuring Frank Sinatra in his final D.C. appearance. Today the Warner is an entertainment destination that showcases musical acts for every taste, and performers that include the very best stand-up comedians. Stand-ups like Dave Chappelle.

Dave Chappelle is from the Washington D.C. area, Silver Spring, to be specific, and at the Warner Theatre show he seemed to enjoy being back in his hometown. He mentioned several local landmarks throughout his show, including the eye-popping Mormon Temple located near Kensington, and every one not only established his bona fides, but they all got laughs.

Chappelle is 44-years old and has being doing professional stand-up since he was an underage high school kid. His comedy has evolved into more of a storytelling style, and he’s one of the best to have ever commanded a stage.  He talks about his status as a stand-up  in the show we saw, hinting that he may not be doing it again, at least any time soon, and when he mentions that he’ll be filming his “last” Netflix special during this run of shows at the Warner, the audience isn’t sure if they’re bummed or excited.

With a long reputation for controversy and shaking things up (i.e. the big bucks and hit TV show he walked away from in 2006), Chappelle would have been remiss not to address the elephant sitting in the middle of the swampy room that is Washington, D.C. right now. The elephant all of us are talking about all the time. The elephant that Chappelle famously said he was willing to give a chance on SNL on the first show after the 2016 presidential election.

Chappelle was, as expected, blunt, honest, and most importantly funny, in his observations of the political times we find ourselves in. Yes, he was political, but human. Combative, yet graceful. Angry,  yet compassionate.

He had a message, but he did not belabor it.

He spoke the truth as he sees it, and he was as funny as a man can be while doing it.

And that’s my kind of comedy.


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